By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the storied history of a program that has won seven NCAA men’s soccer titles, there have been few defeats as one-sided as the one Virginia suffered Sept. 24 at Louisville.
At Lynn Stadium, the Cavaliers lost 6-1 to the Cardinals.
“We had a bad night,” UVA goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell recalled. “They had a good night. But I don’t think you can put it down just to that. They’re a really good team. But as a unit we’ve come leaps and bounds from where we were then.”
Caldwell’s comments came Wednesday night at Klöckner Stadium after No. 6 seed Virginia edged No. 11 seed NC State 1-0 in the ACC tournament’s first round. The victory boosts the Cavaliers’ chances of earning one of the top 16 seeds — and a first-round bye — in the 48-team NCAA tournament.
It also sets up a rematch for UVA (10-2-5) with Louisville (11-4-1). At 1 p.m. Sunday, in a game to be shown on ACC Network Extra, the Wahoos meet the third-seeded Cardinals at Lynn Stadium.
In the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings, Louisville is No. 10 and Virginia is No. 17.
“This is a huge opportunity for us,” said Caldwell, a junior. “You don’t often get to kind of undo bad nights, and we have a huge chance to do that.”
The shutout was the fifth straight for the `Hoos, who have not allowed a goal in 498 minutes. But the victory did not come easily against an NC State team that finished the season with a 5-12 record.
“We were a little lethargic today, I gotta say,” UVA head coach George Gelnovatch said. “But from the other standpoint, it’s November, and when you win in November, it’s a good thing.”
The game’s only goal came in the 82nd minute, when midfielder Pablo Aguilar scored after Wolfpack goalkeeper Alex McCauley was unable to secure a cross from UVA midfielder Sheldon Sullivan.
The goal was the sixth of the season for Aguilar, a redshirt junior from Guatemala, who moved into a tie with sophomore forward Edward Opoku for the team lead.
“Obviously it wasn’t one of our best performances,” Aguilar said, “but that’s what good teams do: They find a way to win.”
The Cavaliers have posted a 7-0-3 record since their disastrous visit to Louisville. During that span, they’ve allowed two goals.
“I think a lot of that’s in response to that performance over there in September,” Caldwell said, “and now we get a chance to really show how far we’ve come, and I think we’re all really excited for it.
“I don’t think we were great tonight. I think we didn’t pay the fine attention to detail that we have in ACC matches for the past several weeks, and the fact that we got a win in regulation [could be seen as] maybe slightly fortunate. We didn’t play great, but I think we owned the game. So I think the score is an accurate reflection of the performance.”
Gelnovatch acknowledged that his players were hoping for a rematch with Louisville, whose goalkeepers include his son, Jake, a freshman who graduated from Albemarle High School.
“We’ve tried not to talk about it too much, but there’s definitely rumblings of wanting another shot,” Gelnovatch said. “I think before the [ACC tournament] pairings even came out, guys wanted the opportunity to go there and do better, so now we have it.”
This marks the 36th consecutive season that Virginia has won at least 10 games. Its latest victory could have been more convincing, but “again, when you win in November even though you’re not at your best, there’s something to be said for that,” Gelnovatch said. “And I think the one thing it’ll do is get our attention and get us ready for the next one.”